opop conference september 03 09 ottawa
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Telepsychiatry in a private practice setting

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OPOP conference, September 03 09, Ottawa. Telepsychiatry in a private practice setting. I, Hugues Richard, perceive no conflict of interest with this presentation but present companies with which I have worked and consulted for: Lundbeck Canada Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN). Disclosure….

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
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I, Hugues Richard, perceive no conflict of interest with this presentation but present companies with which I have worked and consulted for:

  • Lundbeck Canada
  • Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN)
learning objectives

1. Discover the benefits and limitations of working with OTN.

2. Find out which patients do best, and if there are any contraindications.

3. Discuss the future of telepsychiatry and ways it can be improved.

learning Objectives

My practice: general psychiatry, adult, psychotherapy, trauma work, consultation liaison, community psychiatry

Private office: Stittsville.

Meet my two assistants…

relevant clinical exposure

After closing my 18 year practice at Centre Alliance in Sturgeon Falls, in 2003… off site at ROH.

  • Use of a studio at a local hospital, walking distance from my office then in Arnprior.
  • Since November 08, videoconference equipment installed in my office.
    • 8 “visits” done since, for the 2 centers I serve up North (Kirkland Lake & Chapleau)
Relevant clinical Exposure
use of videoconference for

Direct clinical work including consultation, follow up, psychotherapy even meditation!

  • Indirect clinical service: case discussion, treatment plan, team meetings
  • Supervision/teaching
  • CME
Use of Videoconference for….
installation and implementation

Government’s third phase

  • Easy process from administrative to technical
  • One person assigned → very helpful!
  • ++ Non intrusive “behind the scene action”
Installation and implementation

to lose control on appointments,

To lack efficacy or accountability,

To become impersonal,

To be left to my own self.


How is it going to work for new patients?

Will I survive working 5 days in a row?

How are the patients and staff going to react to this?

my experience

Smooth process: booking, liaison;

Professionalism and reliability;

Excellent technical support on line (bridge), and in vivo;

My experience
my experience1

Consultations → no problem! Nurse or case worker always present!

  • Actually enjoying working from my office, feeling ‘at home’…
  • Integration of activities and technology from my own practice (EMR, fax, phone, instant messaging, cell, computer server, Skype)
  • Less tired at the end of day/week
My experience
my experience the technology

Sound: raise it or decrease it, or mute yourself off when you need to speak to your assistant

  • Image: ZOOM in or out, see yourself in interaction
  • Distance→ different perspective
My experience – the technology
my experience2


1 patient declined, preferring to wait to see me in vivo

Negative perception from one agency clinical director who thought I was less available

My experience
benefits physician


Time saving


Safety ( pandemic, road accidents…)

Benefits - physician
benefits physician1

Environment (↡carbon footprint)

No disruption in family life

Available to my in vivo practice

benefits patients

Availability of service

  • Convenience: less driving, specially in winter, ↑ autonomy
  • Cost
  • In the North, videoconference used for teaching, health, already part of culture
Benefits - PATIENTS
benefits patients1


1.Distance is perceived as protective

2. Control is maintained, can walk out easily

3. Neutral place

4. Those who enjoy technology or like novelty

Benefits - patients
my experience3

65 to 75% of patients who could have benefited from telemedicine chose one-to-one visits.

Different with patients from the North: all but one have used OTN.

My experience
what do studies tell1

Very accurate compare to in vivo

The non verbal communication lacks compare to the verbal

Most studies show that the “main obstacles to telepsychiatry have to do with physicians and patients adjusting…”

What do Studies tell ?

Delay to get a studio available; turn around between one and two weeks, at least 48 hrs

Registration at an agency makes it more public

Having other people involved makes it very hard for some patients to trust (bridge, hackers, OTN = government)


No hand shake!

  • Non verbal communication somewhat lacking (visual acuity and precision)
  • Smell is absent: ethylic intoxication for instance
  • Patients who needs a very strong presence, such as Veterans suffering from traumas, many will not engage with a “TV” or a “COMPUTER”
limitations charting

I had not anticipated this one!

  • Old chart not easily accessible
  • progress notes better be at both sites!
  • KL: Citrix EMR unpractical
    • →impossible to write in the chart
    • →very long process to enter and retrieve info from the chart
  • KL transcriptionists = long distance
Limitations – charting!!!
charting my solution

Progress notes written on same lap top I use on site;

Consultations dictated to and transcribed by my assistant →notes sent rapidly to everyone involved

Charting –my solution
clinical vignette 1 mrs c

In her 50s

  • Referred for consultation
  • Long past history of sexual molestation as a child
  • “Interpersonal traumas” later on as an adult.
  • Symptoms of dissociation with possible PTSD
  • Resistant to treatment (psychotherapy and many different ads)
Clinical vignette 1: Mrs. C.
mrs c

Lives >160 k from my office, but a studio is available 4 k from her

Would you have offered her videoconference?

She chose….

MRs. C.

Patients who refuse this modality (informed consent needed)

Violent / unstable / impulsive patients

Patients requiring special monitoring when not available


Patients with specific symptomatology that could be exacerbated by the use of communication technology (Z with hallucinations for instance)


Patients with whom news must be shared in person, because it could cause significant emotional reactions (HIV test results)

Patients who have hearing, visual, cognitive deficits that limit their ability to communicate via this technology

clinical vignette 2 ms d

In her30s

Recently separated

Referred to me by FP and SW for symptoms of depression and anger

SW attends the session

I have completed the assessment, at least that’s what I thought… But apparently not her!

Clinical vignette 2 –Ms. D.
clinical vignette 2 ms d1

Starts throwing chairs around,

Screams that she’s had it; nobody listens to her, and she is to kill herself

SW is hysterical

Me too !!!

Clinical vignette 2 –Ms. D.
what have i learned

Have phone and fax very close by if not in the studio

Have certification forms at hand

Have a coordinator of care on site

Have triage done beforehand

Patient = realistic expectations

Good rapport with ER staff

What have I learned ?
clinical vignette 3 mr f

A good story at last!

  • 46 year old native, married;
  • Works as bus driver at local Casino;
  • Known to me since early 90s, in Sturgeon Falls;
  • Bipolar II Disorder, mostly hypomanic, on Lithium
  • Panic Disorder without agoraphobia,
  • Alcohol Dependence in remission.
  • Obese
  • Diabetes dx while on Olanzapine 12.5mg.
Clinical vignette 3 –Mr. F.:
clinical vignette mr f

2003-2006, treated by FP and SW

  • Comes back in 2006 in need of psychiatric report re: driver’s licence
  • Booster sessions 3 to 4 times a year, travelling from Orillia to Stittsville
  • Spring 08: father dies, depression triggered
  • Dec 08: sick leave, Paroxetine started by FP
Clinical vignette – mr. F.
clinical vignette

Telemedicine equipment recently installed in my office allows for weekly intensive sessions.

Also use of Skype (once) and numerous emails.

I talk with his SunLife case manager on phone

Clinical vignette
clinical vignette mr f1

Trial of different drugs

  • Lots of support to his wife, psychoeducation to both of them
  • Grief work related to his dad and his inability to work and to function.
  • Work on regression, and nutrition.
Clinical vignette –Mr. F.
clinical vignette mr f2

Patient on his own decided to see a Native Healer, and took Rescue remedy (BACH flowers)

  • Good response to Seroquel XR 600 mg, Lithium 1200mg, Modafinil 100mg bid.
  • I also reluctantly raised his Clonazepam from .75mg AM + 1mg PM to 2.5mg AM + 2mg PM.
Clinical vignette –Mr. F.
clinical vignette mr f3

Presently back to work full time

No need for hospitalization

His wife is still with him

Clinical vignette –Mr. F.
clinical vignette mr f4

Excerpt from an email received July 16 09 “ In the Objibway language “Meegwetch” means thanks from the heart...

  • I wish to live to the fullest and that is my choice
  • You have helped me through a hardship so I say
  • MEEGWETCH Dr Richard”
Clinical vignette –Mr. F.

Telepsychiatry is very valuable in many different ways

It has shown that it is an accurate way to assess and treat patients;

It offers psychiatric services to people who have no direct access to such services


For some patients, it’s their preferred way of treatment

It is not for psychiatric emergencies

It is not to replace one on one sessions

It might be a cost saving treatment

Obstacles are mostly from professionals


To me, it is an exciting way to practice;

Without telemedicine, I would not have been able to serve the northern communities last winter.


Need to know more about who are the best candidates

Contraindications to be more precisely defined


Need to improve the image quality to get more of the non verbal communication.

  • Professionals need to learn more about the potential benefits from this medium.

A must:

“Telehealth-clinical guideline and technical standards for telepsychiatry”,

Gilles Pineau, Khalil Mogadem, Carole St-Hilaire, Eric Levac, Bruno Hamel et al. (AETMIS 06-01) Montreal AETMIS 2006 xxii-72p.